DALLAS FORT WORTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Lieutenant Commander Harmon Rabb,
Junior hovered anxiously outside
"How you doin'?"
"Better, now that I'm on solid ground," Mac answered shakily. "Did you...?"
"Right here," Harm answered,
handing over a packet of Dramamine with
"Who's bright idea was it to hold this thing in a place where you can't get a direct flight from the East Coast, anyway?" Mac grumbled.
"Come on, Mac...it'll be great. Like the Admiral said, a working vacation. We spend the weekend at the conference, and then we get the rest of the week to play in beautiful sunny California. What could be better?"
"I don't know...maybe root canal?" Mac groaned miserably. "What time is it, anyway?"
Harm stared at her in shock. "I thought jetlag didn't bother you?"
"Jetlag doesn't...being airsick does."
"Better?" Harm asked, after they'd eaten a light snack. "Think you'll make it all the way to Burbank?"
"Yes, thanks," Mac replied, mustering a smile for him.
The waiting area at their gate was crowded, but a man wearing a black cowboy hat got to his feet immediately to offer Mac his chair. A broad grin lit Cordell Walker's weathered features as he recognized them. "Harm, Mac, it's good to see you! Here, Mac, sit down," he added quickly.
"Are you all right?" Alex Cahill asked as Mac gratefully sank into the chair next to her.
"The Colonel had a bout of airsickness," Harm told them.
"And he's not going to let me forget it, either," Mac replied.
Alex laid a comforting hand on Mac's arm. "I'm not looking forward to this myself," she confessed.
Walker squeezed the diminutive golden-haired woman's shoulders reassuringly. "Everything's going to be fine, Alex."
"I know," Alex responded with a small smile for her fiancé, "but I can't help worrying a little."
"The last time Alex and I flew, we got shot down," he explained for the benefit of the JAG officers.
"Shot down?" Harm asked curiously.
"Walker and I were transporting evidence to a trial. The defendant didn't want that evidence or us, to get there, so he hired a hit man to shoot us down," Alex explained. She shuddered a bit at the recollection.
Walker noticed the small movement, as he noticed everything about Alex, and leaned down to gently kiss the top of her head. "He's behind bars now, Alex, and he won't ever hurt anyone again." Walker didn't add that the man in question was dead if he ever did manage to get out of jail.
He didn't have to Harm saw it in his eyes and gave a single, discreet nod. Harm's eyes flickered to Mac's and then to Alex.
Mac responded instantly to the unspoken plea. "Alex, how are the wedding plans coming? Have you picked your dress yet?" she asked curiously.
Alex's eyes brightened almost immediately. "The plans would be moving along a lot faster if I had some help," she said, with a mock-glare for Walker.
The two women were soon happily engrossed in wedding chatter and Walker breathed a sigh of relief as he turned to Harm. "Why're you guys heading to Burbank?"
"The National Law Enforcement
Conference," Harm explained. "The
"I'm teaching a seminar on hand-to-hand combat. Trivette and Trent Malloy flew out yesterday to make sure everything gets set up."
"Well, that makes one interesting
event," Harm quipped. "What're we
"We're going to track down that FBI agent who's giving the lecture and get that book signed for Bud like we promised," Mac informed him.
"I've been trying to forget that," Harm grumbled.
"I know," Mac replied.
"If you forget, I'll remind him," Alex added sweetly.
Any reply Harm might have made was
lost in the sudden bustle as their
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CONFERENCE CENTER
"Where's the registration desk?"
Mac asked as they wandered into the
Attempting to put his greater height to use, Harm scanned the room. There were booths set up for various police charities, and a large influx of people in evening dress going into an event at the other end of the hall, but nothing that looked like a central registration desk for their conference. Finally, he shrugged and said, "Let's try over there."
'Over there' proved to be a small both staffed by hotel personnel. It took three tries to get someone's attention and be informed that they were, in fact, at the right place. Then Harm had to spell his name twice, and Mac's three times before their security badges could be located. Finally they had their badges and registration packets, and Harm bought a program.
Mac opened her packet and studied
the schedule of events. "This is
"So is the program," Harm
told her. "We'd better ask Walker when his
"Yeah...what about the FBI thing?"
Harm shot her a sour look. "I keep hoping you'll forget about that."
"You promised Bud you'd get his book signed," Mac reminded him.
The two JAG officers turned to see a handsome dark-haired man in civilian clothing making his way over to them.
"Matt! What are you doing here?" Harm asked, grinning at Matt Shepherd and his companions.
"Our boss thinks we need to brush up our skills in non-lethal take-downs," Matt told them.
"Yeah," Benny Ray Riddle
added, "there's a seminar in hand to hand
"Cordell Walker and his partner," Harm stated.
"Friends of yours?" Matt wanted to know.
"Let's just say we've had some adventures together," Mac said mischievously.
"Now dat I can believe," Nick Delvecchio quipped.
A soft chuckle rippled through the group, but Margo Vincent's keen eyes noted Mac's pallor. "Mac? Are you all right?"
"Yeah, I'm OK. I uh, got a little airsick during the descent into the Dallas airport, so Harm got me some motion sickness medication. The stuff made me groggy, so I thought I'd work out a little to try and push it out of my system."
"Looks like you went from groggy
to flat-out exhausted," Benny Ray
Mac laughed softly. "I think you're right. I'm just trying to stay awake for a couple more hours so I don't wake up at three AM."
Something she didn't quite know what drew Mac out of a sound slumber. Gradually she became aware that her bed was shaking. She mulled over that groggily for a few moments, then came to the conclusion that it must be an earthquake. But didn't things fall over and make noise during an earthquake? That's what always happened in the movies. Gradually, the shaking subsided and Mac drifted back to sleep.
Some hours later, more tremors rippled through Mac's consciousness, not quite forceful enough this time to drag her to full wakefulness.
Golden sunlight streamed through a gap in the drapes. Mac blinked her eyes sleepily as she looked around her room. Everything was in place, exactly as she'd left it the night before. 'It must have been a dream,' Mac mused as she headed into the bathroom. She decided not to say anything, since Harm had quite enough fuel for teasing her already. She'd never hear the end of it if he found out that she'd dreamt up an earthquake.
"Is this really the only place to eat around here?" Mac grumbled as she pushed her breakfast around on the plate.
"'Fraid so," Harm commiserated.
"Harm, Mac, can we join you?" Matt Shepherd asked.
"You're braver than I thought," Mac laughed.
"Aw, it can't be that bad," Benny Ray chuckled as he perused the menu.
"Wha'dya think a dat oitquake?" Nick asked cheerfully.
"So I didn't dream it?" Mac asked.
"Nope," Matt replied, "California really rolled out the welcome wagon for you."
"What's good?" Margo asked, eyeing the menu.
"In this actual restaurant?' Harm countered.
"So which room is the hand-to-hand
seminar in?" Matt asked as they
Mac studied her program. "It says the West Room at eleven AM."
"Well, the sign next to that
door there says West Room," Benny Ray
"An' a sign onna door says it starts at eleven t'irty," Nick added.
"And there goes Walker let's just ask him," Mac said.
"Walker!" Harm called.
The Ranger hurried over to join them, nodding politely to Mac and Margo and smiling pleasantly as Harm made introductions.
"Anyway, Walker, we're all planning on attending your seminar, but there seems to be some confusion about when it's going to take place," Harm concluded.
"Well, right now we're having some difficulty locating our equipment. Trent shipped out everything we need last week, and the carrier confirms delivery, but the hotel can't find our stuff. I'm headed over to the hotel fitness center right now to see if they have any of the things we need on hand," Walker explained.
"Anything we can help with?" Mac offered.
"Not unless you folks packed gym mats and safety gear to fly cross country," Walker laughed.
"Well, since the seminar is running late, why don't we take a look around for that FBI agent," Mac suggested.
"Mac, I don't even know what the guy looks like!" Harm protested.
"That's why we were issued name tags," she retorted.
"Problem is, ma'am, you got to be a cryptographer to make out what they say," Benny Ray drawled.
"Who you lookin' faw, anyway?" Nick asked.
"That FBI agent you know, the guy who's always chasing after UFOs and aliens?"
"Oh, yeah...the guy who's always writing articles for those really off beat scientific journals, right?" Margo wanted to know.
"Yeah, that's the guy," Harm answered. "Anyway, a friend of ours follows this guy's career and asked us to get an autograph."
"Lotsa luck, pal," Nick put in. "I'd have trouble finding my own bruddah in this mob."
"So, what'd you think?" Cordell Walker asked, rubbing absently at a sore elbow.
"That was a great demonstration," Harm enthused.
"I like how you combine the techniques you learned in the Corps with the other forms of martial arts," Mac added.
"That was pretty good stuff, amigo," Benny Ray agreed good-naturedly.
"Thank you," Walker replied, eyeing Harm and Mac's companions curiously.
Harm apologized and quickly made introductions. Walker's level gaze rested on each of Matt's people in turn, and he thought that the oddly assorted group seemed more like soldiers than police officers, but if Harm and Mac called these folks friends, then that was good enough for him.
"What's next on the schedule?" Margo inquired.
"I don't know about the rest
of you," Trent Malloy spoke up, "but I'm
"That makes two of us," Walker laughed.
"Great," Jimmy Trivette said briskly. "So where are we going? Is there anyplace around here that has good organic food?"
"Trivette, we are eating right here," Walker informed him.
"You're kidding me, right?" Trivette asked in disbelief.
"No, I'm not kidding," Walker said patiently, "Alex's panel starts in twenty minutes we don't have time to go anywhere else.
"How about dat stand?" Nick asked, pointing to an impromptu concession that the hotel restaurant had set up.
"I'm too nervous to eat anyway," Alex murmured, taking Walker's arm.
"You'll be fine," Mac reassured her.
Margo carefully smothered a smile as she watched Alex snitch a slice of tomato from Walker's sandwich.
"You know Alex, for someone who wasn't hungry, you've gotten outside of about half of Walker's lunch!" Harm teased.
"Well, if she's brave enough to eat this stuff, talkin' in front of a room full o' people shouldn't be no problem at all," Benny Ray observed. He crumpled up his sandwich wrapper and stood to throw away his trash, inadvertently bumping into a tall man in a dark suit. "Pardon me," he apologized.
"No harm done," the other man replied easily. One corner of his mouth quirked up in a wry half smile. "You looking for the toxic waste dump, too?"
"They sure didn't pick this place for the food," Benny Ray replied.
"Yeah...I'm beginning to think that this whole thing is a conspiracy to lure law enforcement personnel to this thing and starve them all to death."
"Mulder," the man's companion scolded in a long-suffering tone. She was a diminutive redheaded woman with a piercing gaze.
"Ma'am," Benny Ray intoned politely.
"Dana Scully," the woman introduced herself, "and my partner, Fox Mulder."
Harm's head shot up at the man's name. "Excuse me," he interjected, but are you Agent Mulder, from the FBI?"
"That's right," Mulder replied, eyeing Harm's uniform warily.
Harm carefully pulled out Bud's copy of the Journal of the Paranormal. "A colleague of mine has an avid interest in your field of work...when he heard you were going to be here, he asked if you might consider signing this for him."
"Here that, Scully?" the agent quipped, "I'm famous. I'd be happy to sign that for your friend." Mulder fished out a pen and scrawled a brief message across the cover of the magazine, signing it with a flourish.
Benny Ray glanced at the cover of the magazine, then back to Scully. "What do y'all do with the FBI, ma'am?" he asked, thinking that he'd heard of these two somewhere before.
A small smile played over Dana Scully's lips as she saw the recognition blossoming in Benny Ray's eyes. "We investigate cases whose origins are considered to be paranormal or possibly extraterrestrial in nature," she explained in her best detached, clinical tone.
"Hey...yeah...I seen you guys inna paper," Nick exclaimed. A broad, gleeful grin spread over his features as he looked at Mulder. "You're the guy who chases UFOs!"
"UFOs? You mean like in little green men?" Benny Ray snorted.
"You don't believe in the possibility of life on other worlds, Mister...Rider?" Mulder asked, squinting to decipher Benny Ray's name badge.
"Riddle," Benny Ray corrected absently, "and no, I don't believe in flying saucers and space men and all that. I tell you one thing, though, if I ever do see any little green spacemen, I'll be sure and give 'em a nice, friendly American welcome."
"Remington or Winchester?" Margo inquired.
"Now, darlin,' you know the Remington's my favorite."
"Benny Ray," Walker chided, "a bullet isn't always the answer to everything, you know."
"With all due respect, Ranger Walker, in my line of work, it's the right answer to most things. Even little green men."
"Well, there's an awful lot of strange things in this world," Walker replied thoughtfully, "...why don't you go to the man's lecture and listen before you make up your mind?"
"I still think all this talk of flyin' saucers is a bunch o' bull," Benny Ray contended, wrangling cheerfully with his teammates as they walked through the hotel lobby.
Margo shrugged. "I thought it was kind of interesting."
"Margo," Matt groaned, rolling his eyes.
"I don't know," Nick replied thoughtfully, "I've done more law enforcement work den you guys...I seen some stuff that I didn't want to believe was done by people."
"You think that's what it is?" Matt asked. "He's seen stuff that his mind just doesn't want to accept was done by human beings?"
"Sounds like Agent Mulder could use a vacation," Margo observed.
"Unfortunately, Agent Mulder isn't going to get one," a dryly amused voice informed them. "Any of you folks know how to get to Twenty Nine Palms?" Mulder continued, smug at having startled the team. "We have to go check out some sightings that were reported at the epicenter of the earthquake."
"I can give you directions," Mac volunteered, as she stepped off the elevator. She'd just gotten Mulder squared away when a pizza man entered the lobby. "Room 814?" she asked eagerly.
"Yes, ma'am. One large pie, half sausage and half veggie."
Just then, Margo's stomach rumbled loudly and Matt chuckled. "You know, that smells awfully good. You up for another run?" he asked the deliveryman.
They called in a sizeable order from
a pay phone in the lobby and the
"Man, that slop makes C.D.'s chili look like gourmet fare," Jimmy groused.
"I'll be sure and tell him you said that," Alex laughed.
The laughter ceased abruptly at the sound of shouts of alarm from the parking lot. Shepherd's team was closer to the door and they took off at a dead run, with Trent and Trivette not far behind. Walker paused only long enough to tell Alex to stay put before following.
Two armed men were threatening the pizza man.
"Hey!" Matt shouted.
The two weapons immediately swung around to aim at the team.
A woman with two small children crossed the parking lot briskly, laughing and chattering with the two little ones. When she looked up and saw the tableau before her she shrieked.
The two gunmen turned towards the sound and Matt took advantage of their distraction to tackle the one closest to him. Benny Ray's Glock appeared in his hand and he was aiming for the second tango when Trent slapped his arm down.
"Benny Ray no!" he shouted, pointing to the civilians.
Walker charged past them both in a blur of motion. One foot shot out and suddenly the weapon went flying through the air and the gunman was lying on the ground, cradling a broken arm.
Matt landed one more solid punch to his target and then there was silence, broken only by the soft whimpers of the two children. "Is everyone all right?" he asked.
Margo, who had gone to check on the woman and kids, called an affirmative a moment later.
Benny Ray whirled on Trent with a murderous gleam in his eye. "What the hell was that?" he snarled.
"Benny Ray!" Matt bellowed, "Stand down!"
The sniper shot him a withering glare.
Matt gestured for Jimmy Trivette to take charge of his prisoner, then came over to speak quietly to Benny Ray. "Look, I know you could have made that shot, but he didn't. Now put that thing up before the local cops arrive."
Grudgingly, Benny Ray complied.
Walker turned over his own prisoner to Nick and strode over to join Benny Ray. He eyed the sniper intently for a few moments before speaking. "You're not really a cop, are you?" he asked quietly.
Benny Ray didn't reply. He tried to keep his face relaxed and expressionless.
Walker nodded slightly, mentally confirming his suspicions. "You look more like a soldier to me," he continued. "Maybe even a sniper. And I'm betting you probably could have made that shot, too, but there's a time and a place for everything, and when there's civilians in the field of fire, it's time for something other than a gun."
"That is why we came here, Benny Ray," Margo reminded him gently.
Benny Ray looked at her and she gave him an encouraging half-smile. "Well, maybe you're right...but I still would have made that shot."
Walker chuckled softly. "Benny Ray, I'll make you a deal. You meet me in the fitness center tomorrow morning and I'll teach you some tricks they don't show you at Quantico." He held out his hand.
Benny Ray grasped his hand and shook it firmly. "Amigo, you got yourself a deal."
Benny Ray shook his head to clear it and blinked up at Walker, who stood firmly over him on the mat. "How'd you do that, amigo?" he asked in wonderment.
Smiling, the Texas Ranger offered him a hand up. "Come on, I'll show you." He did, but ten minutes later, Benny Ray had kissed the mat yet again.
"You've almost got it!" Trent said encouragingly.
"Yeah, right," Benny Ray groaned.
Margo had been watching the entire 'lesson' very intently. "I think I see what you mean. Can I try?"
"Sure. Come on over," Walker invited.
Margo stepped up onto the mat.
"Ready?" Walker asked.
Moving suddenly from the rear, Walker attacked. Margo reacted instantly, twisting and sidestepping in a manner that Benny Ray hadn't quite been able to coordinate and the much heavier Ranger went sailing through the air to land with a thump on the mat.
"Like that?" Margo asked innocently.
"Just like that," Walker agreed, grinning as he sprang lightly to his feet.
Benny Ray looked from one to the other suspiciously. "I wanna try that again."
"Is there anything on this menu that somebody hasn't already tried and hated?" Mac asked the table at large.
"What about a salad?" Margo replied. "After all, what can they do to a simple green salad?"
"Don't ask," Jimmy Trivette told her.
"So, now that we've all survived this charming experience," Harm began, with a sideward glance for the rather-the-worse-for-wear Benny Ray, "what's everyone going to do with the rest of the week?"
"We're headed home tomorrow," Matt stated. "We're supposed to have the week off-"
"Yeah, right," Nick snorted.
"What about you?" Trent asked.
"We've got a few days leave, so we're going to take in some of the local sights," Harm answered.
"I finally talked Walker into a nice safe vacation," Alex told them happily.
"Where are you going?" Margo wanted to know.
"I thought Walker was afraid of the rides," Jimmy quipped.
"Well, I'm trying to steel myself for the experience," Walker replied, laughing as he hugged his fiancé.
"Well, if you're brave enough to eat here, you're brave enough for anything, amigo," Benny Ray said with amusement.
"Which brings me back to my original question," Mac prompted.
"Hell, if we're trying to find something good in this place-" Matt began.
"-we'll be here 'til hell freezes over," Margo finished for him.
"Dis from a woman who likes barbecue chicken on pizza," Nick groaned.
"God, I wish I could have a Beltway Burger," Mac sighed.
"Mac, this is California...they like health food here," Harm reminded his partner.
"This place is more like a health hazard," Jimmy grumbled.
"An expensive health hazard," Trent added.
"Why don't you come with us tomorrow?" Matt invited. "The Silver Star actually serves food that's fit for human consumption."
"That's a great idea," Margo concurred.
"Plenny o' room in the Suburban," Benny Ray added.
Harm looked to Mac, who nodded. "That sounds great, Matt. We'd love to."
Matt opened his mouth to reply when his cell phone trilled. He slipped it out of his pocket just enough to check the number. It was Trout. "Damn," he swore softly. "Guys, excuse me, but I've got to take this call," he said, slipping out of his chair.
Margo gathered up her purse as Benny Ray sprang to his feet to hold her chair. "Sorry, folks," she apologized, "but I think our vacation's over."
There were murmured farewells as the team departed, then everyone settled down to continue wrestling with the menu.
"So," Trent remarked conversationally, "what do you think will happen this time?"
Jimmy snickered behind his menu, knowing his friends' track record for 'peaceful' vacations.
"Nothing is going to happen," Alex insisted. "We're going to Disneyland. What could possibly happen?"
Walker tried very hard to hold a straight face. Trent didn't bother. Jimmy snorted, Harm chuckled, and Mac dissolved into giggles. Finally, even Alex had to laugh, lending her own sweet voice to the merriest moment of the entire weekend.
Disclaimer: SOF is the property of
Rysher, et al; JAG is the property of CBS, Donald Bellisario,
et al; Walker, Texas Ranger is the property of CBS, Top Kick
Productions, et al; The X-Files is the property of Chris Carter,
FOX, and Ten Thirteen productions, et al; this is a recreational
endeavor, no profit is being made and no copyright infringement
Copyright © 1998-2001 by meadowsV.
All rights reserved.
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